Bathinda, March 14
To focus on image building, Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda has dissolved its political wing, which was quite active during elections in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, while announcing support to parties and candidates.
Harcharan Singh, a member of the Dera Sacha Sauda 45-member committee, said, “Dera has dissolved political committee. Its members have been relocated to state committees as we are focusing on social work.”
Another dera functionary, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “We can’t say anything about future. But it seems that the political wing will not be reconstituted soon.”
It seems that since dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction in 2017, the dera following and image had taken a hard hit. Apart from this, the financial position of the dera was also hit following the closure of its commercial establishments and manufacturing units as its assets and bank accounts had come under the ED scanner.
After the dera head recently came out on 40-day parole, it stepped up its social activities. The sect is on the path of reviving its image and trying to connect with the people.
The Sirsa-based dera, founded in 1948, stayed apolitical for over half a century. However, in the 2002 Assembly polls, its covert support helped the Congress return to power in Punjab. The sect then launched a 45-member political affairs wing (PAW) to “advise” followers on their political and electoral choices.
In the 2007 Assembly elections, the dera openly backed the Congress. Its sizeable vote bank in at least 40 of Malwa’s 69 segments played a key role as the party won 37 seats in the region against 29 bagged by the SAD-BJP alliance. However, the Congress failed to retain power as it was virtually routed in Doaba and Majha regions.
A couple of months after the SAD-BJP government took over, Ram Rahim kicked up a row when he allegedly imitated Guru Gobind Singh at a congregation at the Salabatpura centre in Bathinda on May 13, 2007. The controversy sparked violence between dera ‘premis’ and Sikhs. This prompted Akal Takht to pass a ‘hukamnama’ (edict) against the dera.
During the 2012 Assembly polls, the sect again walked a tightrope by supporting select candidates instead. In 2017, the dera announced open support to SAD candidates in southern Malwa.
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